The breathtaking Nôtre Dame Cathedral was built on the Ile de la Cité in the Seine and is one of the most important Gothic buildings in France today.
The Nôtre Dame ("Our Lady") Cathedral rises in the centre of Paris on an island in the middle of the Seine, the Ile de la Cité (Island of the City), and is one of the most important buildings in France. It is dedicated to Mary, the Mother of God, and was once the scene of numerous coronations of various kings and queens, including Napoleon Bonaparte. It has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1991.
The massive cathedral is on several of our top 10 lists:
- The Top 10 Sights of Paris
- The 10 most beautiful churches in France
- The 10 most beautiful churches in Europe
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Building of the Nôtre Dame in Paris
The construction of the church, built in the early and high Gothic style, took almost two hundred years: from 1163 to 1345. In the course of time, it was restored and changed again and again.
The elaborate architecture of the King's Gallery above the three large portals provides space for 28 sculptures representing the biblical kings. These statues were destroyed during the French Revolution, however, as they had been mistaken for statues of French kings by the enraged citizens.
Some of the heads of these statues reappeared towards the end of the 20th century. Today they have their place among the treasures of a medieval museum.
Nôtre Dame today
The current exterior of the stunning cathedral is largely due to Eugène Viollet-le-Duc, who restored Nôtre Dame in the 19th century. The famous gargoyles in the shape of demons on the roof are also a legacy of his.
The enormous nave of Nôtre Dame in Paris is 130 metres long and 48 metres wide, its massive towers rising 69 metres into the sky.
The detailed facade figures in the round arches above the three portals and the elaborately decorated columns give Nôtre Dame an imposing aura and dignity. But it was not only the great master builders who contributed to the history of Nôtre Dame, other people did too. Thus, its fame gained a significant boost through Victor Hugo's novel "The Hunchback of Nôtre Dame".
Visit to the Nôtre Dame of Paris
Inside the cathedral, the visitor feels like a real pipsqueak in the huge 35-metre-high nave. The gloom that reigns inside makes you feel even more lost.
However, the sparse light really shows off the many stained glass windows. Especially the window rosette at the front of the building shows its full splendour in translucent sunlight. Due to the refraction of light, it speckles the surrounding architecture with all the colours of the rainbow, which further enhances the mystical, spiritual aura of the cathedral.
Masses are held in Notre Dame at certain times. Visitors are also allowed to go in and out during the services, but it is better to stay in the side part of the building during the masses and lower your voice so as not to disturb the worshippers in their devotion.
In addition to the nave, the towers, the treasury and the crypt with the archaeological zone are also open to visitors.
Fire in the Nôtre Dame
On 15 April 2019, a devastating fire broke out in the Nôtre Dame, completely destroying the wooden roof truss from the Middle Ages, the crossing tower and the tower clock. No one was injured in the fire (there were only a few minor injuries among the emergency services).
The majority of the art treasures stored in the cathedral could be saved completely intact. Within five years, Nôtre Dame Cathedral is to be rebuilt true to the original. The financial means for this should not be a problem - already on the day after the fire, the donations pledged amounted to an incredible 900 million euros.
A visit to the cathedral is currently only possible on a limited basis for security reasons.